The Essential WordPress Plugins

essential-wordpress-pluginsAlmost 1 in 4 of the Top 10 Million sites runs WordPress and, in total, over 60 million sites are powered by WordPress*. Truly insane numbers! The good thing is, that means there is a vast community of WordPress users and developers who help provide answers, solutions, and advice.

It also means that there is a massive Plugin Library available that offers solutions from SEO tools to responsive photo sliders to contact forms. These plugins are invaluable for both the developer and end-user as they save time, are often well designed, and are easy to use once installed. Not only that, for the most popular plugins you’ll usually find a rich ecosystem of problem solvers and debuggers.

So, without further ado, these are some of the top plugins that I use on nearly every site that I build. They help me create a better site for myself or a client because of their consistent performance, quality, customization.

WordPress SEO by Yoast

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As we all know, SEO is an integral part of building a website. Not only do we want users to find our site when they search Google, Bing, or any other search engine, but we want the site to look good in the results, provide correct information, and, thereby, maximize utility.

WordPress SEO by Yoast is the ultimate tool in this respect and helps you design your SEO results in both general, site-wide terms as well as page and post specific titles, meta data, and even Facebook image results.

Get to know this plugin…as it is an important and powerful ally!

Akismet

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 2.30.54 PMAkismet, a comment spam solution, comes standard with most WordPress installs, yet it requires activation. If you plan on using WordPress’s comment system (as opposed to Disqus, Facebook, etc), take the few minutes to register and activate Akismet.

Your alternative is receiving thousands of comments and notifications thanks to bots and spammers slinging their latest pills, fur products, and SEO solutions.

Google Analytics Dashboard for WP

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It is very likely you intend to install Google Analytics on your site in order to keep track of visitor data, demographic information, page popularity, e-commerce funnels, and search engine results. If that is your intention: good!

Also, let it be known that I really like the Google Analytics platform and dashboard. I use it all the time. However, when building a WordPress site, it is important to keep in mind your (or your clients) use habits. By installing the Google Analytics Dashboard for WP, your basic analytics data shows up right on your WordPress Dashboard for you two checkout every time you login. This is great, especially for those of us who are blogging, running e-commerce stores, or constantly updating information on the WordPress backend.

The information is way simpler than anything that you see by logging in to your Google Analytics Dashboard, but for basic, overview data that’s checked out casually, this plugin does the trick!

MetaSlider

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 3.08.28 PMWhen I first started building WordPress sites, I searched everywhere for a good, beautiful, and customizable photo slider solution. I looked at custom building and installing sliders using JQuery, I tested countless slider plugins with little success…and then, I found MetaSlider.

My search ended.

MetaSlider offers four options: Nivo Slider, Flex Slider, Coin Slider and Responsive Slides, as well as a bunch of built-in customization tools for transitions and timing. It has short codes, is easy to use, and works seamlessly with your designs. You can also upgrade to a Pro version if you want your slides to include videos, HTML, layers, and even greater degrees of customization.

Contact Form 7

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 2.30.17 PMI like to use contact forms on a site because it can insulate your email address from being in public domain and it can help you route specific emails to the appropriate member(s) in your organization.

Like building and installing a contact form, this can be a needlessly time consuming task to do on your own, especially given the existence of the WordPress Plugin community.

Contact Form 7 offers a quick, light, and easy to customize contact form solution.

Custom Post Type UI

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 2.37.47 PMAre you looking to create a custom post type and serve it on your site using similar commands to a blog post loop? Confused on how to efficiently and effectively create your custom post type?

Enter, Custom Post Type UI. It is advertised as an “Admin UI for creating custom post types and custom taxonomies in WordPress”.

This can be nice if you’re hoping to create a set of posts that use the same set of information: events, a portfolio, team members, or recipes.

When used in conjunction with Advanced Custom Fields (see the next plugin), you can create some pretty nifty custom post types for your site.

Advanced Custom Fields

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 2.36.46 PMSo, you’ve created a custom post type (hopefully, rather easily if you used the Custom Post Type UI plugin) and, now, you need to customize how that post type looks when you’re creating a new post.

Advanced Custom Fields does just that, helping you create your custom post type’s field template. This process works like building out a form or a survey: select your field type (text area, drop down, image etc), name it, assign a slug (which you can refer to in your coding sessions), and save it!

Like the rest of these plugins listed, Advanced Custom Fields has a pretty large community of users and, therefore, plenty of helping hands for your trouble shooting.

Now, my question is…what plugins am I leaving out?

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